Privacy Concerns Mount Over Hidden Sales Prices

June 25, 2019

In about a dozen nondisclosure states, the home purchase price isn’t made public. Sales prices can still be found by looking at publicly recorded transfer tax information, but to most of the general public, housing sales data can seem secretive, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A couple in Houston had offered to pay $700,000 to buy a home, but were alarmed to see it listed on a real estate site under an estimated home value that fell short of that—$530,000. In nondisclosure states, like Texas, the couple learned that estimated home values online may be murkier since the sales data isn’t available.

Consumers have to be reminded to rely on comparable sales data from their real estate agent. Real estate pros have access to the local multiple listing system and mortgage data to tell clients the sales prices of homes that have recently sold.

Some local governments have been advocating that sales data be made more widely available to the public in nondisclosure states. Officials who advocate that point to studies that say the lack of disclosures is problematic with property tax information in nondisclosure states, causing significant under- or overappraisal of properties.

However, proponents of such laws in nondisclosure states argue the laws are in place to protect homeowner and buyer privacy.

“The purpose of it is protecting the consumer,” Keith McMullin of Port Aransas Realty in Texas told WSJ. “Your nosy neighbor can’t go to Zillow and find out what you sold your house for.”

Texas lawmakers have long proposed changes to its disclosure laws, but every effort has failed for the past 20 years. Texas REALTORS® has been credited as being instrumental in blocking the changes.

“A private transaction between myself and you should be kept private,” said Daniel Gonzalez, director of legislative affairs for Texas REALTORS®. “We should not have to give the government any indication of what we’re doing in our private lives.”

The States Where Home Prices Are Secret,” The Wall Street Journal (June 19, 2019) [Log-in required.]